Is Los Angeles Ready For A Major Quake?

The San Francisco Bay Area was jolted awake Thursday morning after a magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck near the Oakland-Berkeley border around 2:37 a.m.. 

The epicenter of the earthquake was located near the notorious Hayward fault - one that scientists watch closely because of its potential to generate a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake under heavily populated regions. 

The 4.5 quake isn't expected to have caused any major damage, but it was a good reminder for residents in Los Angeles that we have our own ticking time bomb of a fault nearby. 

Retrofitting Regulations 

Scientists with the USGS say there's a 60-percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or higher quake could hit California within the next thirty years. Scientists say it's possible the San Andreas could produce an even bigger quake - up to a magnitude 8.2. The most recent mega-quake Los Angeles experienced was in 1857 and estimated to be a mind-blowing magnitude 7.8. 

It's those kinds of numbers that have L.A. lawmakers issuing warnings to concrete building owners from Downtown to the West Side. New regulations governing the retrofit of pre-1978 wood-frame soft-story buildings and non-ductile concrete building were passed two years ago, but compliance by building owners has been minimal. Some owners say the retrofitting is too expensive, costing some millions of dollars to comply with the law and the city isn't offering to help with costs or construction. 

Earthquake Warning System on the Way?

Scientists have been developing a seismic warning system for the west coast for years basing it on a simple property of physics - seismic waves can only travel at the speed of sound through rock, far slower than the time it takes for a text message to travel. 

An early prototype of the earthquake warning system gave San Francisco eight seconds of warning before the shaking began from an earthquake that was centered in Napa. That doesn't sound like a lot of time, but it is plenty for hospitals to switch to generators, people to find cover, and get away from windows or other dangerous areas. 

A system like that could give Los Angeles residents up to a minute to prepare for the shaking for an earthquake centered near the Salton Sea, more than 150 miles away. 

President Trump initially eliminated funding for the early-warning system, but the proposal was reinserted after an out-cry from twenty-eight California lawmakers from both parties. 

Get Prepared

In a major quake, experts say Southern California could be isolated from the rest of the country. The Cajon pass, and the Grapevine, two crucial arteries in and out of the region could be cut off by landslides, or broken power and gas lines. 

Preparation and knowing what to do during and after a quake are key. The CDC has a list on its site with recommendations of what people should have in their home, cars, and office to stay prepared. At the bare minimum, people should keep a three-day supply of water, food and medications. 

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